Another year, another list. It’s trite to say that 2015 was a great year for music, but I am going to go ahead and say it anyway. The amount of great albums and EPs that were bestowed upon us was staggering. Whether it be the heaviest of the heavy, or the indiest (I am aware that is not a word, just go with it) of the indie, or anything in between, there was sonic gold to be found on all ends of the musical spectrum. I have compiled 30 of my absolute favorite releases of the 2015 for the 10 people out there who care about my opinion. These are the records that blew me away and have stuck with me throughout the year. Enjoy.
But first, here are some honorable mentions. I adored each of these records, but they didn’t quite make the cut unfortunately.
Primitive Man – Home Is Where the Hatred Is
Fuck the Facts – Desire Will Rot
Tyranny is Tyranny – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Battles – La Di Da Di
Loma Prieta – Self Portrait
Spook the Horses – Rainmaker
So Hideous – Laurestine
Driftoff – Modern Fear
Heiress – Of Great Sorrow
30. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
Triumphant, uplifting pop-fueled punk anthems to remind us what it feels like to be young and alive
29. Marriages – Salome
Ethereal post-rock tunes with a post-punk and alternative twist.
28. Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Kaleidoscopic R&B/soul/jazz hybrid hailing from deep space.
27. Napalm Death – Apex Predator-Easy Meat
A bludgeoning, flesh ripping collection of ear splitting tunes from the reigning kings of grind.
26. Nadine Shah – Fast Food
Moody indie/alternative rock full of memorable hooks and emotionally-charged lyrics.
25. Muck – Your Joyous Future
Raw, blistering metallic hardcore that is rambunctious and eclectic.
24. Will Haven – Open the Mind to Discomfort
A thick, atmospheric and groove-ridden EP that marks the wondrous return of these noise metal titans.
23. Lament Cityscape – The Torn
A colossal fusion between industrial and post-metal, whose sound lies somewhere between Through Silver in Blood-era Neurosis and the most abrasive of Godflesh’s material.
22. He Whose Ox is Gored – The Camel, The Lion, The Child
Shimmering shoegaze collides head-on with titanic sludge in this genre-bending masterpiece.
21. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
Another multifaceted, cinematic, behemoth-sized record from the Canadian post-rock gods.
20. BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
This pairing between the Canadian jazz favorites and the Wu-Tang MC is a match made in hip-hop heaven.
19. Eye of Nix – Moros
Avant-garde doom and gloom + haunting operatic vocals = a dark musical experience like no other.
18. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
One of the most important hip-hop records (or records in general) to come out in the last few years, lyrically and sonically speaking.
17. Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Twisting and churning hard rock-fueled metal that is as catchy as it is complex.
16. Björk – Vulnicura
A melancholic, deeply moving artpop record that further solidifies Björk’s place as one of the most forward-thinking artists.
15. Death Engine – Mud
Corrosive noise and blistering screamo come together in unholy matrimony on this ferocious release.
14. Phantom Winter – Cvlt
Frostbitten blackened doom metal suitable for those with the coldest of hearts.
13. Imperial Triumphant – Abyssal Gods
Disfigured and disturbing black metal that is too damn evil, even by Satan’s standards.
12. Fashion Week – Prêt-à-Porter
Ludicrously catchy grunge inspired noise rock that kicks serious ass and sticks to the brain like peanut butter.
11. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
A dark and beautiful release that combines elements of Wolfe’s previous efforts into one grandiose opus.
10. Blacklisters – Adult
These Leeds-based noise rockers have really outdone themselves on their sophomore full-length record. While their debut release was more spastic and eccentric, Blacklisters opt for more straightforward bludgeoning on the brooding Adult. The end result is an album that walks along the path laid out by The Jesus Lizard and the like, only to veer off said path into a realm of pure abrasiveness and psychosis. Blacklisters don’t lose their eccentricity or their sense of humor, but it’s obvious that they wanted to inflict pain this time around.
9. Cowards – Rise to Infamy
It’s dark, it’s brooding, it’s colossal, it’s Cowards‘ sophomore full-length record Rise to Infamy. It only makes sense that this record was released during the winter as it is as cold as cold can get. These Parisians’ brand of sludgy metallic hardcore takes no prisoners and leaves all who listen dead in a pool of their own blood. It’s vile, dissonant, nihilistic and unnaturally heavy. Those with heart conditions, be warned.
8. Carved Up – Matador
Pennsylvania’s Carved Up showed the music world what post-hardcore heaven looks like with their newest full-length Matador. Driving rhythms collide head-on with complex, serpentine riffage throughout these angular, genre-bending album. Elements of post-rock, post-metal, post-everything can also be heard mixed together with the writhing mass of chaos and aggression. From start to finish, this record is punishing and enthralling. Those unfamiliar with these soon to be post-hardcore giants, now is the time to get acquainted.
7. Locrian – Infinite Dissolution
Chicago/Maryland sonic experimenters Locrian tackle the end of the planet on their new record, Infinite Dissolution. Mankind will eventually drive itself into extinction, and Locrian will be playing every step of the way. They paint their portrait of the end of the world with an eclectic mix of sounds ranging from kaleidoscopic shoegaze, interstellar ambiance, metallic doom and gloom, ethereal post-punk and a myriad of other styles that only Locrian can weave together with finesse. It’s a bleak and enthralling album needs to be listened to.
6. Envy – Atheist’s Cornea
Japan’s post-rock/screamo hybrids Envy return with yet another beautiful opus. While Envy do not tread any new ground on Atheist’s Cornea, their tried and true formula still yields fantastic results. Cinematic post-rock pieces are woven together with towering, melodic screamo, post-hardcore and emotionally-charged vocals. The album is insanely gorgeous when it needs to be, and intense and demanding when it needs to be. Envy can do no wrong, and Atheist’s Cornea proves that.
5. Cult Leader – Lightless Walk
It’s extremely hard not to mention Gaza when Cult Leader is brought up, much to the band’s disdain. But here, the band they used to be must be mentioned as Cult Leader has fully evolved into their own entity with Lightless Walk. 2014’s Nothing For Us Here was just the first step, while Lightless Walk is the full transformation. Bleak, blistering, dissonant bursts of hardcore aggression populate the majority of this metallic masterpiece. Gloomy, almost Goth-tinged passages unveil a side to the Salt Lake City band that has never been seen before. Cult Leader are anything but a one-trick-pony and they want the world to know that. If this is only their first full-length, then their next release is sure to be phenomenal.
4. Great Falls – The Fever Shed
If there is someone out their who wants to know what psychosis sounds like, look no further than Great Falls‘ The Fever Shed. The Seattle noise makers’ newest release is deranged, suffocating and chaotic. The instrumentation is malformed, noisy, dissonant and unapologetic. Disfigured, Gorgutsian riffs bend and twist atop subterranean bass lines and erratic percussion. Towering sludge and walls of harsh noise rear their ugly heads throughout the album as well. It’s a nauseating musical experience not suitable for the faint of heart.
3. Kowloon Walled City – Grievances
Kowloon Walled City made quite a stir with 2012’s Container Ships, only to make an even bigger stir with this year with their magnum opus, Grievances. The album, just like its predecessor, shows these Californians redefining what it means to be sludge metal. Simply calling it “sludge” is a bit of disservice as these guys are in a league all their own. Grievances is a slow, crawling record that is deeply melodic as well as sonically crushing. It’s somber dirges are sure to bum out even the most elated of individuals. Kowloon Walled City are definitely one of the more interesting acts in recent memory. Believe the hype.
2. Caspian – Dust and Disquiet
How does a band follow-up one of the best record of 2012? Well, with one of the best record of 2015 of course. Caspian‘s follow-up to 2012’s Waking Season, Dust and Disquiet, continues to show the band’s aural growth paying off. With each album, the Massachusetts instrumentalists continue to get better and better as they reinvent their sound and hone their craft. Dust and Disquiet is, by far, the band’s ultimate achievement. It’s a massive sonic experience that is insanely gorgeous, multi-faceted and awe-inspiring. It’s a tremendous piece of work that cannot be described perfectly with words. Just listen to it.
1. Sumac – The Deal
Whether it be his work with Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mamiffer, or his time spent as the head of Hydra Head Records, Aaron Turner has undoubtedly had a profound impact on the heavy music community. So of course here was a mass amount of hype surrounding his new band, Sumac, when it was announced in late 2014. Turner combining his efforts with Russian Circles/Botch bassist Brian Cook and Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn seemed too good to be true. Well, it wasn’t, and the hype surround The Deal was warranted. The Deal is a leviathan of a record, plain and simple. It’s similar yet different to anything Turner has done in the past and is in no way a rehashing of Isis. Sumac is a ferocious, grumbling beast that thrives off of down-tuned metallic mayhem. Throbbing bass lines walk hand-in-hand with sludgy marches that often spiral out of control at a moment’s notice. Cue in Yacyshyn, whose erratic drumming ties everything together in an explosive package. This auditory behemoth is the most crushing thing that 2015 had to offer. Sumac will even return in 2016, which means that The Deal is just the tip of the iceberg. Be warned.